When Russell Branyan's phone started vibrating Saturday morning he knew it could only mean one thing: they were breaking up the Indians. Branyan, who appeared in 52 games for the Tribe earlier this season and another 240 in the early aughts, said the first text message came from Austin Kearns.
"Austin texted me and it said 'Going to the Yanks!!!' and I could tell he was really excited. I tried not to harsh his buzz but all I could think was, man, this is sad. Austy Kearnsy? Not an Indian? That feels weird, for that to, you know, be the reality."
Things only got more surreal throughout the day. The text messages kept coming and the list of players leaving Cleveland just became more difficult for Branyan to believe. He seemed truly affected as he recounted the day's events through bites of a sundried tomato, pesto and turkey sandwich.
"I mean, I think the toughest one for me was Kerry Wood. Westbrook and Peralta, we expected that-those guys actually seemed to have some value, you know-like, they knew how to play baseball pretty well. Other teams wanted them. But me, Austy, Kerrsy-we were what we thought Cleveland was all about: players that most other teams wouldn't have taken for free before the season."
The slugging first basemen, speaking from his swank Seattle apartment (he calls it "the launching pad", with a chuckle) didn't hold back when asked about why he, Kearns, Westbrook, and all the rest were no longer Indians. "They traded us. I mean-this wasn't our choice. I think some of the guys would've chosen to leave if they were allowed to decide, sure. Kearnser was pretty pumped about contending, so was Jakers, Peralty, all the guys. Not me, though-I think it's just sad to break up a group of guys like that. A bunch of ballplayers that have known each other for a couple of months and, in some cases, for even longer? To just send them wherever?"
And if the trigger hadn't been pulled on all these small, most likely inconsequential trades?
"I was with the M's last year and Cleveland reminded me of that same situation. I think we could've won 80, 85 games. I guess that's not what they wanted, though, huh?"